You are on page 1of 5


Simulation Study of Conventional Fire Flooding

(CFF) in Fractured Combustion Cells: A Promising
Tool along Experiment
S. M. Fatemi (Sharif University of Technology), R. Kharrat* (Petroleum
University of Technology) & C. Ghotbi (Sharif University of Technology)

The Conventional Fire Flooding (CFF) process application feasibility on fractured carbonated reservoirs
remained questionable. In this paper first combustion parameters and reaction kinetics of a naturally
fractured low permeability carbonated heavy oil reservoir in Iran called Kuh-E-Mond applied to
simulation study. After that, simulator has been validated with Kuh-E-Mond combustion tube experiment.
Recovery mechanism in single block matrix is different from one in conventional model since oxygen first
flows into the fractures and then diffuses from all sides into the matrix. Combustion of the oil in the
fractures produces some water ahead of fracture combustion front which prohibits oxygen from early
breakthrough through fractures into production well. Water imbibes to the matrix and causes matrix oil
drainage to the producer. This oxygen diffusion/water imbibition based recovery mechanism is slower in
production rates compare to conventional model recovery mechanism, and causes lower produced oil
quality since less oxygen is available for matrix. Further, sensitivity analysis on air injection rate,
formation thickness, injection well depth of perforation, horizontal fractures and also effect of water
alternating air process on fracture model results have been studied.

Shiraz 2009 - First International Petroleum Conference & Exhibition

Shiraz, Iran, 4 - 6 May 2009

1. Introduction
As the resources available for conventional oil in worldwide continue to decline, further
development of heavy oil, extra heavy oil and bitumen recovery technologies is critical to
meet present and future energy requirements (Nasr and Ayodele , 2005) and (Etherington and
McDonald, 2004). For the production of oil from heavy oil reservoirs, thermal methods are
applied widely. One of these is in situ combustion (ISC) process. In this process air is injected
into the reservoir and the oxygen in the air burns part of the oil, thereby generating heat,
which reduces the oil viscosity and enhances oil recovery (Prats, 1984), (Thomas, 1988) and
(Partha, 1998). In some field trials of ISC, the combustion process could not be sustained if
there were fractures in the reservoir (Al-Bahar et al., 2004). It is argued, since fractures are
much more permeable than the surrounding reservoir rocks, the injected air will flow almost
exclusively through the fractures and will contact only oil present in these fractures or in their
immediate vicinity. In this case, not only the reaction rate is too low because of the very small
contact area between air flow and fracture walls, but also the total amount of fuel available for
combustion might be insufficient to sustain the combustion process.
According to Schulte and Vries (1982), if only the low reaction rate is responsible for
dying out the combustion front, in densely fractured reservoirs contact area between air flow
and fracture walls might be sufficiently large to sustain combustion, assuming that sufficient
fuel is available. They found that due to high permeability of fractures, air first spreads
through the fractures and then diffuses into the matrix from its surrounding faces. Also, it was
found that diffusion is the most important phenomena for burning and recovering oil from the
2. Methodology
2.1. Combustion Tube Experiment
In addition a high-pressure laboratory combustion tube system (Figure-1) was designed and
was built to evaluate the in-situ combustion process with air and oxygen-enriched air. The
combustion assembly consists of a combustion tube, high pressure jacket, heating jacket,
pressure back regulator, mass flow control, O2/CO/CO2 analyzers, and data acquisition
system. The combustion tube is cylindrical stainless steel tube of 0.325 inches (0.826 cm)
wall thickness. It has a 3.94 inch (10 cm) internal diameter, and is 40 inches (100cm) long.
2.2. Simulation of Combustion Tube Experiment
In numerical simulation of combustion tube, a vertical matrix block which is consisted of 20
grid block (center of grids will be located on the thermocouple locations in experiment) in z
direction, one grid block in x, y directions is considered. In this model the following six
components and pseudocomponents were introduced to the simulator: water, heavy oil (HO),
light oil (LO), inert gas, oxygen and coke. All noncondensable gases such as CO2, CO and N2
were lumped to a single inert gas to minimize the number of equations to be solved. KEM
flash composition has been lumped into two group known as light (C1-C11) and heavy oil
(C12+). Table 2 shows comparison between simulation and experimental data.
2.3. Three-Dimensional Conventional Combustion Cell Simulation
A rectangular combustion cell (3D) measuring 1m 0.3 m rectangle by 0.055 m deep was
used to carry out the CFF simulation. In order to achieve an adiabatic condition for the 3D
cell operation, no heat loss to the surrounding has been assumed. Permeability and porosity of
the cell set equal to 1270 md and 0.414. Dry combustion test were completed using the
standard ISC well arrangement, i.e. VIVP (vertical injector vertical producer) and wells
completed in the midway thickness of the cell. External heaters used to ignite the combustion
in the cell.
2.4. Three-Dimensional Fractured Combustion Cell Simulation
Since KEM is also a fractured reservoir, the conventional combustion cell of the previous
section was modified to study the effect of fractures. The matrix block is surrounded by
vertical fractures (two fracture perpendicular to the flow direction and two in the flow
direction). The oil production mechanism is based only to the fractures communication and
Shiraz 2009 - First International Petroleum Conference & Exhibition
Shiraz, Iran, 4 - 6 May 2009

the oil has to be produced from the fractures, since both injection and production wells have
been completed in the fractures layers.

Results and Discussion

3.1. Comparison of ISC Process in Conventional and Fractured Systems
Recovery mechanism is somewhat different in fractured model compare to conventional case.
In fractured model the injected air flows inside fractures since they are the high permeable,
low resistive porous media and from there, it diffuses into the matrix. This different
mechanism affects to the process outputs such as: API of the produced oil, front temperature,
sweep efficiency, oxygen consumption, produced green house gases, ultimate oil recovery,
produced water, front shape and air breakthrough time.
3.2. Sensitivity Analysis of ISC Process for Fractured Combustion Cell
3.2.1. Air Injection Rate
Air injection rate should be optimized since higher ones cause, higher quality of the produced
oil and water production delay. But from another point of view there is some reduction on
ultimate oil recovery after a limit, higher front temperature which should not be above
carbonated rock decomposition temperature, accelerated air breakthrough and higher OPEX
for bigger compressors that can inject air for higher rate to the system.
3.2.2. Formation Thickness
Formation thickness increase reduces average system temperature and oil recovery factor
from the system. In the case of sufficiently thick formation, combustion front can even
extinct. Lower quality (lower API) crude oil produced in the case of thicker formation. Postmortem analysis of the sand-packs, at the same cross-section located the same distance from
injection well, shows lower volumetric sweep efficiency in the case of thicker formation.
3.2.3. Injection Well Depth of Perforation
To study the effect of injection well depth of perforation, the thicker formation of the last
section in which combustion extinct, chose and the injection well completed at the lowest
layer instead of the middle one. By this new depth of completion, ISC process was sustainable
and as a result oil recovery factor increased significantly. Perforation depth of injection well
should be optimized in order to have a sustainable combustion front from one side and
avoiding extra drilling costs for deeper injection well (which guarantees combustion front)
from another side.
3.2.4. Water Alternating Air Injection: WAA
The main object of using water in ISC process is utilizing the generated heat which is left
behind the combustion front and goes to waste after some movement of combustion front.
Economy can be improved by heat recuperation through water injection which leads to
reducing the amount of air injection. To investigate the benefits of in-situ steam generation
and also auto-ignition after water injection, in this part of paper water alternating air process
simulated for both conventional and fractured models. It was found that the oil produced in
the case of WAA-ISC is lower quality (lower API) than that of dry combustion process.
Better air sweep efficiency (according to coke deposition in post-mortem analysis) in water
alternative air compare to dry ISC because of the steam sweep, is another benefit for this
technology. The value of water air ratio (WAR) should be optimized according to these
benefits in conjunction with higher oil recovery factor.
4. Conclusions
Presence of fractures reduced combustion front and system average temperature. Lower
combustion temperature in this case can reduce the possibility of carbonated rock
decomposition and its disastrous effect on ultimate oil recovery factor. Combustion front
profile, in terms of peak temperature zone, is more uniform in fractured model compare to the
distinct concave shape in conventional model. Produced oil from fractured model had lower
quality than conventional model.
Shiraz 2009 - First International Petroleum Conference & Exhibition
Shiraz, Iran, 4 - 6 May 2009

According to the oxygen profiles at the end of the process, higher vertical and areal sweep
efficiency of the burned zone achieved in non-conventional model compare to the
conventional one, although the global sweep efficiency reduced because of lower process
performance rate in fractured model. The same was true for volumetric sweep efficiency
according to post-mortem analysis of the deposited unburned coke. Water bank of combustion
process, generated at the central part of the cell in conventional model, compare to the
fractured zone in the non-conventional model. This generated water in the later case, prevents
oxygen to breakthrough from fractures into the production well, as well as, can be considered
as an oil depletion mechanism from matrix, since water imbibes into the matrix from fractures
and pushes oil into the producer zone.
For combustion process to be sustainable and feasible in fractured model in addition to air
injection rate (which should be optimized according to air breakthrough and oil recovery and
avoiding extra production time and as a result extra OPEX), also perforation depth of
injection well should be optimized in order to have a sustainable combustion front from one
side and avoiding extra drilling costs for deeper injection well (which guarantees combustion
front stability) from another side.
Water alternating air in the fractured system had the same benefits as the conventional model
(higher oil recovery factor and better areal and volumetric sweep efficiency). In the fractured
model the same as conventional model, WAR and the period of water injection should be

Ahmed T. [1989] Hydrocarbon Phase Behavior. Gulf Publication Company.

Al-Bahar, M.A., Merrill, R., Peake, W., Jumaa, M., and Oskui, R. [2004], Evaluation of IOR Potential
within Kuwait, SPE Paper 88716, presented at the 11th Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition
and Conference, Abu Dhabi, UAE, October.
Danesh A. [1998] PVT and Phase Behavior of Petroleum Reservoir Fluids. Elsevier.
Etherington, J.R., and McDonald, I.R. [2004] Is Bitumen a Petroleum Reserve? SPE 90242, presented
at the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Houston, Texas, USA, September.
Fatemi S. M. [2008] Feasibility Study of ISC for KEM Naturally Fractured Carbonated Heavy Oil
Reservoir in Laboratory Scale, Part I - 1D Simulation. Internal Document for the fulfillment of the
MSc. Thesis. Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran.
Fatemi, S.M. [2008] Simulation of KEM Laboratory In-Situ Combustion Data and Effect of Process
Variation Data. Internal Document for fulfillment of the MSc Thesis. Sharif University of Technology,
Tehran, Iran.
Fatemi S. M. [2008] Feasibility Study of ISC for KEM Naturally Fractured Carbonated Heavy Oil
Reservoir in Laboratory Scale, Part II - 2D Simulation. Internal Document for the fulfillment of the
MSc. Thesis. Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran.
Kharrat, R., Vossoughi, S., Azin, R., and Razzaghi, S. [2003] The Investigation of Using Thermal
Methods for Heavy Oil Recovery, Phase I. Internal Document, Petroleum University of Technology.
Nasr, T.N., and Ayodele, O.R. [2005], Thermal Techniques for the Recovery of Bitumen and Heavy Oil,
SPE 97488, presented at the SPE International Improved Oil Recovery Conference in Asia Pacific,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December.
Partha, S.S. [1998], Nine Decades of Combustion Oil Recovery - A Review of In-Situ Combustion
History and Assessment of Geological Environments on Project Outcome, BDM Petroleum
Technology, Bartlesville, Oklahoma,USA , UNITAR No. 1998.124.
Prats, M. [1982], Thermal Recovery, SPE Monograph, USA.
Schulte W. M. and A.S Vries [1982], In Situ Combustion In Naturally Fractured Heavy Oil Reservoirs,
SPE Paper 10723, presented at SPE Enhanced Oil Recovery Symposium, Tulsa, USA, April.
Tabasinejad, F., Kharrat, R., and Vossoughi, S. [2006], Feasibility Study of in-Situ Combustion in
Naturally Fractured Heavy Oil Reservoirs, SPE Paper 103969, presented at the First International Oil
Conference and Exhibition, Cancun, Mexico, September.
Tabasinejad, F. [2005], Feasibility Study of In-Situ Combustion in Naturally Fractured Heavy Oil
reservoirs, MSc. Thesis submitted to Petroleum University of Technology, October.
Thomas, C.B. [1998], Thermal Methods of Oil Recovery, Wiley.
Van Golf-Rakht T. D. [1982] Fundamental of Fractured Reservoir Engineering. Elsevier Scientific
Publication Company, Netherlands.

Shiraz 2009 - First International Petroleum Conference & Exhibition

Shiraz, Iran, 4 - 6 May 2009

Table 1 KEM Reactions Stoichiometry from TGA experiment.

Reaction Type
Reaction Stoichiometry
LO + 13.23O2 11.96CO2 + 6.58 H 2 O
Light Oil Oxidation
Heavy Oil Oxidation
Heavy Oil Thermal Cracking
Coke Oxidation

HO + 56.99O2 51.53CO2 + 28.34 H 2 O

HO 2.154 LO + 25.96Coke
Coke + 1.11O2 CO2 + 0.55 H 2 O

Table 2 Comparison of KEM combustion tube experimental and simulation results.

Experimental Results
Simulation Results
Front Propagation Rate
0.2 cm/min (0.42 ft/hr)
0.42 ft/hr
Total Process Time
470 min (7.88 hr)
7.92 hr
Front Average Temp.
1090F (587.77C)
Front Location @ end
2.25 ft
2.3 ft
Production Well Temp. @ end
550F (287.77C)

Figure 1 Schematic of KEM combustion tube experiment set up.

Shiraz 2009 - First International Petroleum Conference & Exhibition

Shiraz, Iran, 4 - 6 May 2009